Outside of their essential essence as “road movies,” it would appear on the surface that Andrej Tarkovsky's 1979 masterpiece of metaphysical science fiction and a classic musical made forty years earlier have absolutely little in common. Upon closer investigation, one can find clear parallels between the two films.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy dreams of getting out of her small-town Kansas life to experience the wonders of the world. She is grounded in Kansas until, thanks to a fierce tornado, she is transported to the magical land of Oz. There, she must journey through the confusing and frightening landscape to see the titular Wizard, rumored to grant all wishes of those who manage to find him. In Dorothy's case, her wish is simply to return home. Stalker employs a similar story-arc, beginning in a grim industrial town in the dead of night. The main character, the Stalker, prepares to take two other people on a journey into the mysterious land just outside of town known as the Zone, rumored to have been the site of a meteorite landing some 20 years before the story takes place. Somewhere in the Zone, circled by barbed wire, armed military guards and other unexplained defenses of a seemingly supernatural origin, is the Room – a place where your innermost wishes are supposedly made real.

Driving these two tales by impressing the difference between the “reality” and “fantasy” worlds is an identical use of alternating footage. In both films, the dreary real-life sections are presented in grim shades of black-and-white. These sections constitute the beginning and endings of both films, book-ending the respective journeys of the principal characters in color. After the tornado, when Dorothy emerges from her home to discover the land of Oz, she is confronted with a whimsical place full of bright, cartoonish colors. Similarly, when the Stalker and his clients, the Professor and the Writer, enter the Zone, the photography suddenly turn from black-and-white to lush color infused with mostly deep green and blue hues. While not as garishly surreal as Oz, the Zone still manages to look quite foreign in contrast with the dark, dirty, black-and-white city.

In both films, the characters that accompany the main protagonists all have self-perceived character flaws that they believe only someone or something almighty can correct. In Stalker, his clients are both men who seek to fulfill deep desires once they find the Room. For the Writer, his wish appears to be a renewed lust and vigor to write. For the Professor, it is left mostly for the viewer to speculate since he only reveals his true wish when standing at the door of the Room. However, it is obviously something which he feels very deeply. Similarly, Dorothy encounters a group of misfits who each have their own wishes for the Wizard to grant. For the Tin Man, it is to have a heart; for the Cowardly Lion, it is for courage; the Scarecrow merely wants a brain.

The obstacles encountered by both parties are strikingly similar. Both encounter surrealistically shifting paths, aggressive guards (from the flying monkeys of Oz to the helmeted militia of Stalker) as well as the crippling self-doubt and a fear of the unknown for everyone involved.

But the strongest similarity between the two films is their unity of themes and the forms these themes unfold in their respective climaxes. Upon the arrival of Dorothy and her crew at the palace of the Wizard of Oz, none are granted their wishes by the Wizard. Through their own actions, each character has proven that he or she has the desired qualities within. They just needed someone to point out this fact. The Cowardly Lion's courage in the face of difficult obstacles has proven that the Wizard need not grant his wish, for it is already fulfilled. Similarly, the Scarecrow, by his intelligent problem solving skills, has shown no need for the Wizard to grant him a brain. The Tin Man's obvious love and caring for his comrades has shown he already has a "heart." Dorothy, of course, always had the power to go home. She needed simply to click her heels together and repeat a simple phrase. Therein, no wishes are actually granted by the Wizard.

The climax of Stalker unfolds quite similarly. When the three men arrive at the Room, the Professor reveals that he does not need to enter since his motive for making the journey was to destroy the Room with the explosive device hidden in his knapsack. He is, however, unable to follow through with his plan due to inner struggles, deciding ultimately that the Room should continue to exist as a scientific anomaly. The Writer finds that he cannot enter the Room because of the fear of actually receiving his deepest desire which might not be equivalent to his conscious wish. The Stalker states early in the film that he is content with his life as it is. He only wishes to continue to lead people through the Zone to the Room, without ever actually entering. At one point, he states that the purpose of each journey is not necessarily for people's desires to be fulfilled by the Room, but "most importantly, [to] let [each character on the journey] believe in themselves." Like in Oz, no wishes are actually granted by the Room.

Indeed, the lessons in these movies are quite identical. The notion of looking to some sort of “higher-power” to help you correct perceived faults is explored in Stalker and Oz. Making a journey and discovering that the journey itself is the actual conduit for change, while also finding that the desired attributes already existed within each of the characters, are themes that appear prominently in both films.

Sometimes even "children's movies” tackle the same issues as so-called “serious” films. It also proves that upon close inspection, even films as seemingly disparate as The Wizard of Oz and Stalker can have more in common than not.